Yard Waste is vegetative matter resulting from landscaping maintenance and land clearing projects. This includes grass, leaves, and woody materials. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), yard waste is a substantial part of all municipal solid waste. It can make up as much as 50% of the waste collected during the summer and fall months.
There are many benefits to repurposing the organic materials of this waste. One of which is lowering the amount of methane gas produced by landfills which has the potential to explode. Also, since yard waste is relatively clean and biodegradable, it could be developed into compost to use on crops instead of taking up space in a landfill.
There is a ban, with a few exceptions, for disposing yard wastes which are more than three feet in length from landscaping and land clearing projects in landfills by Indiana law IC 13-20-9, and therefore composting of this waste is encouraged. Nonrule Policy Document (NPD) Waste-0019 (available on the IDEM Nonrule Policies page) has additional information on this. A nearby compost facility may accept these banned vegetative material.
Composting is the transformation of vegetative matter and other organic materials into a humus better suited as a fertilizer than the original materials. The transformation is accomplished through natural biochemical processes. Leaves, brush, grass, straw, wood, holiday trees, and other vegetative and organic matter are generally not allowed to be disposed of in landfills. Instead, they can naturally decay and result in a useful compost. Some facilities manage this decomposition process on a large scale and give away or sell the final product, but you can do the same thing in your own backyard.
Management Alternatives for Those Who Generate Vegetative Waste
Persons who wish to consider composting vegetative waste themselves should determine if they are exempt from the registration requirement. Activities that are exempt from composting registration requirements include:
- Composting at one's property vegetative matter and other types of organic material that are generated by the person’s activities.
- A composting operation in an area less than 300 square feet.
- The temporary storage of vegetative matter where only an incidental amount of composing will occur.
Persons involved in land clearing activities do have the option to bury any vegetative wastes, such as leaves, twigs, branches, limbs, tree trunks and stumps onsite. However, because of the potential for future ground subsidence where large quantities of such material have been buried, OLQ recommends composting.
Facilities conducting compost operations must submit a registration application and receive approval from IDEM before beginning compost activities. Requirements for composting facilities are specified in the Indiana Code (IC 13-20-10).
Registration applications need to include the following information:
- A detailed location and description of the site, including an outline of the composting operation boundaries clearly delineated on a topographic map
- Estimated the end use of composted materials and the annual volume of materials that will be processed by the facility
- Compost management procedures, including controls for dust, odors, and noise
- Procedures for properly storing and disposing of any materials received that are unsuitable for composting
- Adequate controls provided to prevent groundwater or surface water contamination from leachate and runoff
To apply, you need to submit the Yard Waste Composting Facility Registration Application (State Form 50414, available on the IDEM Forms page). There is no application fee and registrations are valid for five years. Renewals are due at least 60 days before expiration. Registrations may also be revoked if the facility violates any of the requirements.
Registrations for Yard Waste Composting Facilities are not transferable. When the property ownership changes upon which a yard waste composting facility is located and/or operating, the new owner must re-apply to IDEM for a new Yard Waste Composting Facility Registration if they wish to continue to operate.
The Solid Waste Permit, Registration, and Approval Process page provides the steps involved in the approval process and public notice.
Annual Compost Report
An annual summary report is due by January 31 each year to summarize the amount of material processed during the previous calendar year and the final disposition of the composted materials. This report should be submitted electronically through the Re-TRAC Online portal. Contact OLQ for login information.